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Best Audio Interface For Streaming | Complete Guide

audio interface for streaming

Looking to start live streaming on Twitch, YouTube, or some other platform? Then you’re going to need an audio interface that won’t quit. That’s why we rounded up some of the best audio interface for streaming.

After all, not all your viewers are going to be watching. Quality sound will be essential since some just want to listen!

All you need is a USB or Thunderbolt connection to route the sound to your Mac or PC, and great sound can be yours.

Let’s get started.

Best Entry-Level
Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB
Best Overall
Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen)
Best Value
M-Audio AIR 192|4
Table of Contents

Best Audio Interface For Streaming

Let’s get into the product reviews of the best audio interfaces for live streaming.

It doesn’t matter if you have deep pockets or if you have a small bit of cash, we’ve got you covered inside this ultimate buyer’s guide.

1. Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen)

Best Overall

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is our absolute top choice for the best audio interfaces for live streaming. If anything, get this one because it just works.

It thing looks like a cute little device, but this USB audio interface packs a punch. You just have to hook it to the computer via the USB and running balanced cables, and you’ll have all you need.

The ¼” input is easy to switch between line and instrument levels. The volume knob makes it easy to handle active and hot pickups, and weaker, older signals with gusto.

The device runs on phantom power and includes a headphone jack.

Features

  • Sample rates are top- 44.1 kHz – 192 kHz
  • Features two-line inputs- one ¼” instrument and one XLR with 48V phantom power
  • Hardware controls include Air, monitor level, direct monitor, and input gain
  • Small studio footprint
  • Amazing sound quality
  • Can choose the number of microphone preamps when you buy

2. Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB

Best Entry-Level USB Sound Mixer

Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB

This ultra-compact mixer features 8 audio inputs and lets you achieve top-quality sound. Two mic preamps, a channel EQ, plus one-knob compressors for superb sound clarity.

The Xenya is easy to use and can also double as a mixer for live performances. It handles your live gigs with ease but also helps you make top-quality recordings.

This is a great starting point for beginners looking to turn a home PC or laptop into a streaming hub.

Features

  • 8 Input, 2 Bus mixer
  • High headroom, low noise analog mixer
  • Studio-level compressors and super simple one-knob control for professional-sounding vocals and instrument sounds

3. M-Audio AIR 192|4

Best Value Audio Interface

M-Audio AIR 192-4

This machine features low noise crystal preamps and TRS input with a gain of more than 62db. This will drive condenser mics to the highest dynamic.

There are also hi-Z inputs so you can directly route the guitars and keys into whatever you are producing, such as a song.

Connectivity is fast thanks to the 2.59 ms data round trip speed over the USB-C.  Monitoring is easy thanks to the USB/direct balance knob.

Add to this the included software from AIR Music Technology and the Avid Eleven Lite guitar suite plus some other extras, and you have a winner.

Features

  • Captures all details of sound thanks to 24 bit/192 kHz resolution for top-level monitoring/recording
  • Studio Level Capture: Transparent crystal preamps and beautiful sounding A/D converters get you the best audio EVER
  • Comes with helpful beginner recording software like Ableton Live Lite, Avid FX, and AIR Music Tech’s BOOM, Mini Grand and Vacuum
  • Audio sometimes comes back sounding distorted or bitcrushed
  • Some have reported issues with the Windows drivers and this interface

4. Allen & Heath ZEDi-8

Best USB Sound Board

Allen & Heath ZEDi-8

This brings you super sound quality and an excellent 2×2 USB audio interface. It’s a great mixer for small studios or small live events.

You can hook up two mics or a mono line-level signal; heck you can even hook up two instruments if you want.

There are also two stereo channels available for drum machines or synths. It’s easy to record and playback dual channels of 96kHz or 24-bit audio through USB.

The build quality of this also is top-notch.

Features

  • 4 mic/ line inputs, two feature Class A FET high impedance
  • Easy to config USB stereo audio i/o and features 60mm professional quality faders
  • 6 channels complete with digital FX and USB connection

5. IK Multimedia iRig HD 2

Best Audio Interface For iPhone/iPad

IK Multimedia iRig HD 2

This isn’t your typical type of audio interface, but the sound on this machine is incredible. No matter if you’re working away from home or even off your iPhone, you don’t have to compromise audio quality.

The sampling rate is as high as it gets. Guitars sound natural and clear wherever you are doing the recording.

The amp out on this is amazing; it is a ¼” jack that can be used to send unprocessed or processed guitar signal to a floor tuner, external amp, or differing rig setup for superb live performances.

Features

  • Gives you 96 kHz of digital audio with 24 bits of A/D conversion
  • Works well on Windows thanks to the ASIO driver
  • Includes a Velcro strip and a mic stand mounting clip
  • Great price point
  • Works beautifully on Mac, PC, and iPhone/iPad
  • Extremely portable and easy to take along in a bag, backpack, or case

Guide to Buying audio interfaces for Live Streaming

In this section, we are going to talk about the different reasons people use audio interfaces, and why having a good one matters for the task you are performing, whether that is music, acting, or simply chatting.

Sound Boards vs Audio Interfaces

mixer vs audio interface cartoon letters

A soundboard, or mixer, controls how the audio sounds in a very specific way. They have a set of sliders and dials with which you can control the equalizers, fade, reverb, and delay for each line input.

Audio interfaces simply connect the mic to your computer for recording or playback.

READ MORE: Audio Interface vs Mixer | The Complete Guide

Pros

  • Mixers are good for live performance
  • Beginners may not need a mixer
  • Mixers are a choice if recording from just one or two sources of sound
  • Mixers can do more with sound control

Cons

  • Mixers are necessary if you want high quality, professional sound
  • It will cost more money to buy

Mac/Windows

Imac and mac mouse on a desk

Depending on your operating system, you want to choose an audio interface that works with it, not against it.

Audio interfaces mostly work with all computer brands, but some audio experts believe in some brands over others. Make sure you read reviews and our guide first.

  • Operating System (OS) – There are some audio interfaces that work best with a specific OS. Make sure you choose carefully from our list above or be sure you research with care an audio interface that works for you.

Laptop vs PC

Your recording computer matters in terms of what audio interface options you have.

  • External – You always get better sound quality when you make use of external audio interfaces. If you can, this is the way to go.
  • Built-In – On PCs (not laptops), you can install an audio interface to the motherboard. It has the advantage of being able to skate by data conversion processes, which puts a cap on bandwidth and causes latency issues.

Streaming Software

This is not actually software; it is a reference to a software encoding program. You need an encoder for live streaming because it turns video into a digital format that can be played back on a number of different devices.

Most of these encoders will do a number of different things aside from just converting the video and sending the feed to a platform, which disqualifies it from being called “live streaming software.”

Streaming Platforms

social media icons

Need to know what some great streaming platforms are?

Check these out to get started.

  • Streamlabs.com – They started out as a platform for video games, but now they expanded to all types of streamers like musicians, newscasters, and chatters. The service offers tools that help streamers manage their chats, create and use on-screen visuals for audience interaction, and offer ways for the streamer to collect tips from viewers. You can use it on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.
  • restream.io – This platform is a way to multi-stream or reach a lot of people via a number of different live streaming services. For example, you can broadcast on Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube all at once, which is convenient for all types of streamers.
  • Twitch – You’ve probably heard of a lot of popular Twitch streamers. This is a platform for all kinds of streamers, but it’s the most popular for video game streamers. No matter the topic, you can find a home and develop a following on Twitch.
  • Spotify – All the musicians need to listen up to this: you can get your music out there using Spotify. However, make sure your audio sounds good. You need to sound amazing if you want results.
  • YouTube – Arguably one of the more popular streaming services, YouTube is home to any and all topics you can imagine. Whatever you’re going to be streaming, make sure your people can hear you. Being one of the top streamers on YouTube will be a huge plus!
  • OBS Studio – This is a free, cross-platform, open-source recording, and streaming program. It is compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows. It offers real-time device capture and source capture, encoding, broadcasting, and recording. This data is mostly sent using RTMP and can be sent to any site that supports Real-Time Messaging Protocol such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. This is one of the best recording and streaming software for both gamers and streamers
  • Facebook – Yes, you can live stream on Facebook. Facebook Live requires the use of an encoding software and a camera. You will use their Live Producer feature, which makes use of better production equipment and streaming software.
  • Instagram – You can stream on Instagram for up to an hour. All you have to do is tap the camera icon in the top left of your Feed to casually go live. This is a convenient way for streamers to reach their fans on social media, but you’ll need to build a good follower count first before this can greatly benefit you.

Performance Use/Style

producing beats in a bedroom studio black and white image

How will you be using your audio interface? Here are just a few areas where a top-quality audio interface matters, and why.

  • DJ Sets – To make your sets sound great and go smoothly, use an audio interface. It’s the connecting factor between the sound system and your laptop. People will leave your stream fast if your sound isn’t of decent quality. Make your set stand out!
  • Electronic Artists – Creating music is hard enough, but then trying to livestream it and gain a following is another monumental task. Don’t sell yourself short. Get an audio interface that lets you record ALL of your sounds and play them back the way you meant for them to be heard. When you really love your music, your audience will, too.
  • Live Podcasts – You’re trying to provide information to your listeners, and you’re talking into a mic to do it. The sound cards that come with most computers cannot handle the processing of your audio equipment needs. High-quality mics need lots of power to turn the audio signal and bring it to line level, or the proper volume.
  • Vlogs – Good audio is definitely necessary so followers can hear and see all you did on your daily/vacation/whatever topic vlog.
  • Tutorials – Make sure your viewers get all the steps for whatever you’re trying to teach them by ensuring you’ve got the best audio around- including an interface.
  • Influencers – Whether you are streaming, recording a song, or making a comedy skit, don’t sell your audio short. Get an interface, so all parts of your performance are heard the way they are meant to be.

Tech Specs

These are the “stats” of your audio interface.

  • Software Requirements – Can my computer handle the device?
  • Specs – What are the bit depths and sample rates? How many preamps does it have?
  • Low Latency – Does this have a minimal delay in processing?

Inputs and Outputs

Knowing what these are will make it easier to use your device.

  • Mic Preamps – These take your mic’s signal and help it get processed using other audio equipment. Devices like PC sound cards cannot handle the audio quality of high-end mics. So, an audio interface can help.
  • XLR Inputs – These are used only for microphone recording.
  • Instrument Line Inputs – These are high impedance and good for passive pickups that create voltage levels at the same rate as line level, just at lower power.
  • Balanced Stereo Output – The chance to connect a balanced cable to the interface will bring you better sound quality.
  • Headphone Output – This is an output that offers enough power to drive your headphones, making it easier for you to nail the sound you want.

Sound Mixing Board

A mixing board really offers you the chance to customize the live sound.

  • Mute – This button silences the output of a certain channel when you push it.
  • Isolation – This measures how much leakage there is from one port to another. The more isolation in a mixer, the lower the leakage is.

Multiple Mic Inputs

Having more than enough mic inputs, if you can afford it, is a good idea.

  • How many people are on your live stream? The more people you have, the more mics you will need.
  • Quality of your mic – If you have a top-quality mic, your PC/Mac sound card won’t be able to handle it.

Budget

There are interfaces for all budgets.

  • Advanced – These will have more preamps, more features, and more i/o. Great for those of you already established.
  • Beginner – These typically have just one mic preamp and minimal features but still do a good job.

Size and Weight

  • Travel – Make sure you can take your interface with you on the road if needed. Make sure it can be placed safely in a backpack while you fly or drive.
  • Studio Footprint – Choose an interface that will fit in your studio comfortably. Measure the space you have and consider the measurements of your preferred interface before you buy.

Connection Type

  • USB – Many interfaces use this, and it is especially good for on the road recording.
  • Firewire – Data transfer rate is more consistent as compared to USB. It is ideal for those recording many channels at once.
  • Thunderbolt – Low latency and high speed are the key features here. It is quickly becoming the standard for audio interface connection.
bedroom studio producer making beats

Power Supply

  • USB – This allows high power devices like your interface to attain and utilize power via their USB host instead of an
  • External – This power supplies power interfaces that don’t have the power inside to run using the main power.
  • Phantom Power – Phantom power is an invisible power source and comes from the same cord the audio signal is transmitted from.

Buyer Questions/Debates

Here, we have answered some of the most common questions that tend to arise when people start shopping for audio interfaces for streaming.

We hope this helps you make a better choice and understand why the interface matters.

Understanding Why Audio Interfaces Matter

In summary: It helps you create top-quality audio. This is a piece of hardware that connects mics and other audio tools to the computer, where you will process and work with the audio you record.

The audio interface converts analog signals to a digital audio format and makes it easier to process on your computer. Using a connection such as USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt, the audio is transmitted to your computer.

The same interface can also reverse the process. It takes digital audio info from your PC or Mac and turns it into an analog signal you can play and hear through monitors in the studio or your headphones.

Audio interfaces come with analog, line-level inputs and outputs, mic preamps (high-end models have multiples, beginner hardware usually has about one) and could include digital outputs/inputs.

We mentioned connectivity previously, and it really matters! Make sure you pay close attention to the computer you have (whether it is a Mac or PC) and the connections it takes.

Most PCs use USB, whereas many Macs use Thunderbolt 3 or Firewire (PCs may be able to use them too). PCs and Macs use USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 nowadays, meanwhile, Firewire is, most of the time, a Mac product. These methods are both excellent.

Each offers 480Mbps of speed, which enables you to record 64 tracks at any given time. Each of these connectivity methods has its own pros and cons, so make sure you choose the one that works best for you.

What Are the Benefits of An Audio Interface?

You need one of these because the sound card is simply not going to be enough. Yes, a sound card counts as an audio interface, but the small I/O makes it a poor choice for recording.

Many sound cards come equipped with just an amateur level headphone output, stereo line-level input, and stereo line-level output. Add in the fact that latency, radio interference, and other factors affect how your audio sounds going in and coming out, and you have a recipe for disaster.

You can’t even track multiple instruments with just two output channels. Sound cards have their place, but producing quality audio for your streams, musical or not, is not one of them.

What Are Tech Specs and Why Do They Matter?

Newcomers often ask me if tech specs, or the features of the product, really matter. The short answer is, yes. Here are the big ones we need you to watch out for:

Bit Depth

Bit depth makes a big difference in sound quality when audio is processed. 1 bit is equal to 6 decibels. So, 16-bit audio has a dynamic range of just 96 decibels. As a result, the noise floor is high, but the dynamic range is minimal.

As a result, the quiet parts of your audio end up being loud. Now consider 24bit audio. This has 144 decibels total range, and audio production teams can smoothly process the audio. 24 bits is considered professional-grade sound.

computer chip and bits

Sample Rate

Sample rate in comparison is subjective. When you take a sample, you are taking a small bite of the recorded audio. Compact disc standard is 44.1 kHz and takes 44,100 snapshots of the incoming sound each second.

If you are doing digital to analog conversion, you merely need two samples of a waveform to create frequency.

As a result, the 44.1 sample rate is good because it can, in theory, produce frequencies that go as high as 22.05 kHz. Humans can hear at max 20kHz, so a sample rate of 44.1 kHz is more than adequate to catch and recreate sounds you hear.

Quality of Product Matters

At the end of the day, sample rate and bit depth do not matter when considering the quality of your converter. Ever seen a car that looked cool on the outside with rims and chrome only to find out it was a total hunk of junk?

Same goes for a low brow converter. Sure, it might do 24 bits to 96kHz, but this will give you poor fidelity and a sound nobody wants to hear.

Conclusion

The runner-up of our roundup today is the Behringer Xenyx, but the clear winner here is the Scarlett Focusrite Solo.

The latter is best for all-around audio greatness, while the former is great for beginners (which I presume some of you are if you’re reading this).

Aside from top-notch sound, don’t forget — you need a good PC or Mac with lots of processing power to stream and have at least an internet connection of 25Mbps to stream in 4k/Ultra HD.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

With an aluminum chassis, plus audio inputs located on the front panels and outputs in back. The hardware is compact and easy to use in any situation.

The mic preamp handles your quality mic and instruments with ease. Making your sound and set up simple to use and sound amazing. 

Latency is low, and sample rates get to 24 bits. And the best part? It’s affordable.

  • High-performing converters allow you to record and mix at 192kHz or 24 bits.
  • Air mode offers recordings with bold sound. High headroom instrument output for bass and guitar that is primo. Dual balanced outputs bring you clean playback.
  • Pro tools are included: Focusrite’s Creative Pack, Softube Time, and Tone, plus you even get one free virtual instrument upon purchase and registration.

With that, happy streaming, and good luck!

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About the author

cd38730de4e65cc7ce515086e48ba144

After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Nick became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.